Felicia's Story: Escape (Domestic Violence)
Felicia* came into a Safe Horizon office with one thing on her mind: Escape.
She had spent nearly a decade of her life being abused – mentally, emotionally, physically – by her husband. Like many of us, Felicia wanted a happy marriage and to have a happy life afterward. Instead, she lived in fear, feeling trapped, desperately looking for any way that she could get away. Because her husband was a citizen and she was not, her husband also used her status as a weapon to abuse her even more.
One day Felicia had had enough. She called the police, hoping they would arrest her husband and give her the relief she urgently needed. To her dismay, the police did not treat her case as a domestic violence complaint. It was a “verbal dispute,” and they refused to arrest her husband. Felicia was left to deal with an angry abuser on her own. Felicia asked about getting an order of protection and was referred to the criminal court system.
With that referral, Felicia made contact with Safe Horizon. In addition to our hotlines, Safe Horizon has offices where victims of violence and abuse can find in-person services when they most need them. During the first meeting with Felicia, it was clear that she was truly in crisis and would need as much help as Safe Horizon could provide.
As our staff listened to Felicia’s story, the fright in her voice told them how enduring years of a violent and abusive marriage had taken its toll. She needed our expertise to help find the means to escape. Our staff explained how an order of protection would help her, and then immediately referred her to Family Court so she could get that order. Three months later, Felicia came back to us - terrified, defeated, and hopeless.
She had managed to separate from her husband, but other things in her life had taken a downward turn. Though she had an order of protection, she could not find her husband in order to serve him with it. We also learned that Felicia’s work permit had expired, which meant she could no longer work legally. Therefore, she could not earn enough money to cover her household bills. To Felicia’s frustration, her husband had refused to complete her petition for legal status, which meant she was undocumented. This made her ineligible for other types of financial assistance.
Felicia faced a situation that many victims of domestic violence encounter. Without the financial support their abusers provide, victims may begin to suffer financially, unable to make up the loss in income to cover their bills. Faced with economic hardships, victims often find they have no choice but to return to their abusers and to the abuse they tried so hard to leave. Felicia’s story, however, had a better ending.
Thanks to our compassionate supporters, Safe Horizon has the tools to give women like Felicia and other victims of abuse a chance for change. Our staff sat down with Felicia and helped come up with a way for her to make it through the tough time she faced. What Felicia needed first was a way to take care of her most basic needs – to get food, have a safe place to live, and get clothing. Through our Project Safe services, we helped Felicia change the locks on the doors of her home so she would feel safe. We then helped her come up with a plan so she could continue to stay safe. Felicia received groceries through our food pantries, and we found a place where she could get free clothing. We then linked her to our Immigration Law Project office, which helps immigrants affected by domestic violence with their legal concerns. As we helped Felicia, we also helped her find more counseling support and assistance through one of our partners.
A few months have passed since we first met Felicia. The Felicia we see today is not scared and unsure of her future. Instead, the Felicia we see today is filled with hope. Because of our help, Felicia was able to receive another work permit. She was also able to apply for citizenship, and she is eagerly awaiting her green card. With the change in her status, Felicia is also able to use more resources to help her further. Felicia continues to visit us for information, referrals, and she knows that when she needs to talk, someone from Safe Horizon will be here to help and listen. Most importantly, Felicia now has what she did not have for almost ten years. Felicia has her independence, and she has a life free from violence and abuse – the kind of life she truly deserves.